5 offshore wind firms agree to standard configuration
Vineyard Wind suggests its earlier approach needs revision
IN A BID to get offshore wind development back on track, Vineyard Wind and the four other companies seeking to build wind farms off the coast of New England have agreed to a standard configuration for their projects.
The agreement seeks to address what appeared to be one of the chief concerns of federal regulators, who put the original Vineyard Wind project indefinitely on hold in August amid concerns that its layout could be different from other projects coming along in the development pipeline and create problems for fishermen and others navigating the area.
The agreement is significant because many Massachusetts politicians, including US Rep. Joe Kennedy III and Sen. Ed Markey, have accused the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Trump administration of playing politics with the process. But the agreement by the five wind farm developers suggests they, and particularly Vineyard Wind, recognized a need to address the consistency of their project designs.
The agreement, if accepted by federal regulators, means Vineyard Wind would have to go back and revise its original project configuration. It’s unclear how difficult that will be or how long it will take, but it’s clear more ocean floor mapping would be necessary.
In a letter sent to the US Coast Guard on November 1 and released on Tuesday, New England’s five offshore wind leaseholders – Equinor Wind US, Eversource Energy, Mayflower Wind, Orsted North America, and Vineyard Wind – said they were proposing a regional collaborative layout featuring turbines one nautical mile apart in fixed east-to-west rows and north-to-south columns. The letter said no additional designated transit corridors through the wind farms would be needed.
All of the companies, including Vineyard Wind, had adopted that general approach in recent procurements. The only exception was the original Massachusetts procurement won by Vineyard Wind. In their letter, the five developers said the Coast Guard had consistently expressed its desire that wind farms be oriented in such a way that mariners could go from one end of the wind energy area to the other at a steady course and speed.
“The Coast Guard was concerned that dissimilar array layouts may present a veritable obstacle course through which mariners must navigate,” the letter says. “The solution jointly proposed here would address both Coast Guard issues and preserve navigation safety.”
The letter said the proposal is also responsive to concerns raised by fishermen and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Lars Pedersen, the CEO of Vineyard Wind, told CommonWealth in August, shortly after his project was put on hold, that his company opted for the northwest-southeast orientation largely because that was the approach favored by New Bedford scallopers. At the time, he downplayed the need for spacing turbines one nautical mile apart, saying the turbine spacing in Europe is smaller.
Pedersen signed the letter sent to the Coast Guard by the offshore wind developers.In the competition for the second offshore wind procurement by Massachusetts, Vineyard Wind, Orsted, and the eventual winner Mayflower Wind all adopted the configuration backed by all of the companies in the letter to the Coast Guard.
“Any project layout must be supported by evidence that the pattern minimizes risk to fishing and scientific survey vessel operators based on analyses of radar interference, insurance limitations, operability of search and rescue operations, and related factors,” the statement said. “We look forward to the results of those ongoing studies and a transparent discussion of their outcomes.”